Short Takes 

This week in local theaters

This week in local theaters.

2 x ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY: EL TOPO/THE HOLY MOUNTAIN In 1970, when it virtually gave birth to the midnight movie as cultural event, the phantasmagorical spaghetti Western El Topo made the kind of explosion-on-impact thatʼs all but impossible in theaters today. After three decades out of circulation, stemming from legal issues with Beatles manager Allen Klein, “The Mole” is finally back in theaters along with Chilean-born director Alejandro Jodorowskyʼs oft-bootlegged follow-up, 1973ʼs The Holy Mountain—and they stand out from everything else on screen now like a gallon tub of peyote buttons in a Shoneyʼs salad bar.

Not always in a good way, either. Jodorowsky—filmmaker, Tarot reader, graphic novelist, psychotherapist and Olympic-contender horndog—is a jive artist of equal parts hippie-dippie mysticism, hammy theater of cruelty and sexist egomania. (Apart from the occasional whorish Madonna, there are two kinds of women in his movies: ugly ones who represent everything shallow and corrupt, and hot ones who represent everything shallow and corrupt.) The writer-director-star famously said he makes movies not with his eyes but his balls, and after a double dose of his dilettante symbolism (swastikas! stigmata! haircuts!), itʼs clear he thinks with them too.

But let it be said, however paradoxically, that his testicles have extraordinary visual flair. Jodorowskyʼs great gift is for art direction, and even when his influences (from Dali and Buñuel to Peckinpah and Sergio Leone) practically stroll onscreen with theme music, his gonzo acid-casualty imagery and undisciplined free association seem the product of one completely uncensored imagination. El Topo, with the director as a mystic gunfighter on a gory path to enlightenment, mixes splatter, deformity and absurdist slapstick with a parade of freakshow jolts: a legless assassin stacked atop an armless one, pools of blood in a livid desert. But itʼs The Holy Mountain (financed partly by John and Yoko) that comes closer to a mushroom trip at matinee prices: a folly of absolute freedom complete with frog conquistadors, karate fights, a Magnificent Seven of capitalist monsters, and sets that resemble the covers of every album your older brother kept stashed with his bong. Far out, man. Jim Ridley (Opens Friday at the Belcourt)

1408 For more than half the running time of this unusually affecting, eerie ghost story—the rare Stephen King adaptation to play to his skills as both student and teacher of the genre—John Cusack gives a riveting one-man show. Make that two men: while Cusack does a masterful solo freak-out as a skeptical psychic investigator who meets his match in the evil hotel room of the title, Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom (Evil) ably tightens the screws, testing the skin-crawling possibilities confined in three rooms. They create such chills with limited means that itʼs a disappointment when the movie turns effects-heavy and obvious near the end. And as resourceful as the Matt Greenberg/Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski adaptation is, it suffers from the post-Sixth Sense affliction of twist impairment: figuring out the angle becomes a distraction instead of a pleasure. But Cusack, making the most of his strengths at playing curdled hipsters and lonely boys—has any other actor made such an art of talking into a mini-recorder?—has his best role in years. His splendidly creepy scenes with Samuel L. Jackson, in a glorified cameo as the hotel manager, prove why horror movies should invest in talent, not digital overkill. 1408 is genuinely scary—in part because King, with his shrewd grounding of horror in the commonplace, knows parents fear things much worse than ghosts. Jim Ridley (Opens Friday)


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Recent Comments

Sign Up! For the Scene's email newsletters

* required

Latest in Short Takes

All contents © 1995-2014 City Press LLC, 210 12th Ave. S., Ste. 100, Nashville, TN 37203. (615) 244-7989.
All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of City Press LLC,
except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.
Powered by Foundation